O.G. grunge rockers were in the house Thursday at the Corona Theatre for a night of controlled mayhem with Dinosaur Jr. It was indeed controlled mayhem, because the iconic power trio’s feedback- and distortion-heavy set was easily one of the loudest I’ve heard. But while the power-pop reached deafening levels, founding member, lead vocalist, and amateur skateboarder J Mascis balanced the wall of noise with a subdued and typically low-key performance. It was blissful sonic perfection for Dinosaur Jr’s die-hard fans.
Mascis, who barely spoke to the crowd except for a few awkward grumblings at the beginning, calmly swayed back and forth with his signature Fender Jazzmaster, singing in his instantly recognizable restrained style. While Mascis delivered a solid but practically emotionless performance, original band member Lou Barlow was on fire, jumping around and attacking his bass like a madman fueled by the distorted sounds erupting from the Marshall stacks. Barlow is such an underrated musician, and I doubt I’ve seen a more energetic and downright possessed bass player. Meanwhile, the very bald Murph held the beat steady on drums amid the madness.
The ninety-minute set went deep into the band’s ten-plus album catalogue. Fuzz-rock classics like “Freak Scene” transported me back to my bedroom in my parent’s house in the 90s listening to Bug after school. For “The Wagon,” another incendiary cut from the genre-defining album Green Mind, the band brought on an extra pair of musicians. Apparently the sound wasn’t quite loud enough, and a few people in the back of the room still had some of their hearing. To the delight of the sold-out venue, Dinosaur Jr. tore into their incredible cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” for the encore.
But the show wasn’t all nostalgia for middle-aged grunge rockers. The band has had a couple of highly successful comebacks, releasing albums right up to last year’s excellent Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. The sound on new tracks like “Tiny” is less raw and more polished than the straight-up, punk-heavy sound of their classic albums. But fret not, young Bucketheads; these guys continue to rock hard, and Mascis’ signature melancholic style and hard-to-decipher lyrics still resonate. After three decades in the business, Dinosaur Jr. prove it’s always possible to make relevant yet unpretentious rock and roll, and have fun doing it.
New York City’s Public Access T.V. opened the show with an exciting, party-friendly vibe. Tracks like “End of an Era” sounded like vintage tracks from The Cars. The band released their acclaimed debut album Never Enough in 2016, and have since opened for heavyweights like The Strokes. Lead vocalist John Eatherly had a Joe Strummer-influenced look and sound on “In Love and Alone.” But the unsung hero of the night was the Corona, a gem of a venue in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighborhood. The Corona is a special place with all the warmth of a century-old movie theatre, great sound, and a cool, old-time look. Definitely one of the city’s best spots for live music.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson